by Tedd Siegel

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A GROUP OF FACTORY WORKERS SUNNING THEMSELVES IN THE STREET. SYDNEY, 1934. SAM HOOD PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION. STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES. FREE USE.

“…the old hierarchies that defined “skilled” and “unskilled” seem to be dissolving. Some hold out for further changes, anticipating the introduction of low-carbon jobs to replace those lost, or a universal basic income, or rethinking the value of labour altogether.”

— Nesrine Malik, Guardian Columnist, May 2018

I gotta ramble on, sing my song
Gotta work my way around the world baby, baby
Ramble on, yeah

— Led Zeppelin, Ramble On

Is it even possible to have a clear understanding of the difference between labor and work?

In her famous book, The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt tells us that every European language, ancient and modern, “contains two etymologically unrelated words for what we have come to think of as the same activity, and retains them in the face of their persistent synonymous usage.” …


by Steve Heikkila

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“DER DR. SCHNABEL VON ROM.” 17TH CENTURY PLAGUE PHYSICIAN COSTUME. (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

The viral magnifying glass enlarges the characteristics of our contradictions and of our limitations. It is a reality principle that collides with the pleasure principle. Death is its companion.

–Jean-Luc Nancy

We must live with the awareness that conflicts between life and freedom may occur…even if we uphold both universal principles, we cannot observe both of them unconditionally in many highly sensitive situations.

–Agnes Heller, Beyond Justice

On February 27th, days after authorities in Lombardy and Veneto invoked Italy’s first quarantine measures in an effort to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic, Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben published a brief essay entitled L’invenzione di un’epidemia (The Invention of an Epidemic) wherein he asserted that “there is no SARS-CoV2 epidemic in Italy.” Needless to say, that essay didn’t age well. Less than a month later the Italian healthcare system was overwhelmed with the sick and dying, and Italy overtook China as this “fake” pandemic’s epicenter. …


by Tedd Siegel

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Marc Chagall, 1911. Jewish farming in the Pale, Moshna, Belarus. Public Domain.

“We inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative.”

–Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

“The principle of political action that I am suggesting is that the rhythmic and spiral nature of time should be affirmed.”

–Arthur Waskow, Toward a Jubilee Economy & Ecology in the Modern World

Capitalism never misses an opportunity to tell us that the functioning of the free market is the very pinnacle of human freedom. …


by Tedd Siegel

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IRISH PRESIDENT MICHAEL D. HIGGINS AND WIFE SABINA GREET VICE PRESIDENT PENCE AND MRS. PENCE (AKA “MOTHER”). (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Capitalist realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism’s ostensible realism turns out to be nothing of the sort.

— Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

The struggle for an equitable distribution of time and power to be useful to self and others outside employment…has been effectively paralyzed.

— Ivan Illich, The Right to Useful Unemployment

The Useless Philosopher-President of Ireland

In a speech to a group of students gathered for a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin earlier this year, the diminutive, soft-spoken, and hugely popular president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, made some startling remarks that generated some headlines around the world. The speech, which opened the ceremony for the Irish “Young Philosopher Awards,” had the hallmarks of a traditional convocation address. But its departures from this format were what made it notable. …


by Steve Heikkila

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KAREN WANTS TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER. POPULAR MEME. (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

I’ve been researching the corrosive effects of America’s for-profit election industry on democracy in recent months (see the piece I posted in October entitled The Election Industry versus Democracy). One of the more insightful works I’ve read on the subject is political scientist Adam Sheingate’s 2015 book Building a Business of Politics: The Rise of Political Consulting and the Transformation of American Democracy.

In this book Sheingate details how American electoral politics have been transformed into a multi-billion dollar, for-profit industry. This commercialization was facilitated, he argues, by “[l]ikening the act of voting to a matter of consumer choice.” …


by Tedd Siegel

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DIOGENES IN HIS BARREL. JEAN-LÉON GÉRÔME, 1860. FREE USE, WALTERS ART MUSEUM.

“Every age…needs a Diogenes.”— Jean-Baptiste Le Rond d’Alembert

“Listen: We are here on earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.”— Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake (1997)

In this present series of articles, I am exploring far-reaching implications of what I believe to be an increasingly broad-based societal realization: that the overall conditions of “work-as-we-know-it” are becoming quite intolerable.

As it turns out, explaining what I mean by “refusing work-as-we-know-it,” and showing why the standard “Panglossian” neoliberal objections are not terribly compelling (shame on you, nobody has ever had it so good!) …


by Tedd Siegel

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OFFICE CUBICLE, SKINNER MEAT PACKING PLANT, OMAHA, NEBRASKA. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, (PUBLIC DOMAIN).

The copies, the copies,” said I hurriedly.
We are going to examine them, there —
and I held towards him the fourth quadruplicate.
I would prefer not to,” he said, and gently disappeared behind the screen.

–The Lawyer, Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville

Work
Turn to the left
Work
Now turn to the right
Work
Sashay, shantay

RuPaul, Supermodel (You Better Work)

Something quite momentous is happening with respect to our collective experience of work — or what, following Peter Fleming, I like to call “work-as-we-know-it,” for reasons that will become clear later.

Septuagenarian baby boomers in all manner of leadership positions throughout American society continue to bray like asses, insisting that the present glorious ascendancy of unfettered neoliberal capitalism in all domains is in fact the very meaning of human freedom; but increasingly, larger and larger swaths of both GenX and Millennials/GenZ just know that something has gone terribly wrong. This is not something they know because they have become swayed by some slick re-packaging of an alternative economic and political ideology. They know it (somewhat differentially) in and through the direct effects of work-as-we-know-it. They know it as the flowering of a kind of generational truth. They know it in their bones. …


by Steve Heikkila

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HILLARY CLINTON & TIM KANE, DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION (PHOTO CREDIT: LORIE SHAULL) CC BY-SA 4.0

The electorate is not too stupid or too tired to control the political system. It is merely too poor.” –Thomas Ferguson

In a post-Citizens United political ‘marketplace’ where money = speech, ‘free’ speech has become remarkably expensive. According to The Center for Responsible Politics, a non-partisan money-in-politics watchdog group, the total cost of elections for the 2016 U.S. election cycle was $6.5 Billion. Borrell Associates, an advertising industry market data and research agency, puts the figure at $9.8 Billion and expects that figure to balloon to $11.7 Billion for the 2020 election cycle. That’s a lot of ‘speech’. …


By Steve Heikkila

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GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS THEMED BREAKFAST COCOA ADVERTISEMENT FROM 1873 (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Nazism led to the gas chambers, communism led to the gulags, and neoliberalism leads to soup kitchens.” — Paul Verhaeghe, Says Who? The Struggle for Authority in a Market-Based Society

Surely you recall the fairytale’s narrative logic from childhood. Goldilocks tresspasses in the cottage of a family of bears. First she tries on Papa Bear’s politics, but Papa Bear’s politics are too right. Then she tries Momma Bear’s politics, but Momma Bear’s politics are too left. Finally, Goldilocks tries Baby Bear’s politics, and Baby Bear’s politics are juuuuuuuuust right.


By Tedd Siegel

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MUSSOLINI’S PARTY HEADQUARTERS IN ROME. PALAZZO BRASCHI, 1934.

It’s only after losing control of the House in the midterms that President Trump suddenly turned and demanded 5.7 billion dollars in appropriations to build his damn wall — and then shut down the government when he didn’t get it. Before the media normalizes this (like every other outrageous thing he does) it’s important to stop for a minute and at least ask why.

Surely one reason is that 45 didn’t believe his party was going to get its clock cleaned, and so he must have assumed that he had more time to position himself for re-election in 2020. So rather than “own” this miscalculation like a normal politician, he instead wants to deny that “elections have consequences.” …

About

In Dark Times

Following the 2016 presidential election, people seemed to be saying these words repetitively — “clearly, we’re living in dark times.” indarktimes.com

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